Kangaroos are hard to hate. Even though they can be aggressive, kangaroos are cute marsupials just hopping around living their lives. But people outside of Australia probably don't understand the prevalence of these majestic creatures. Like deer in several parts of the world, kangaroos hop around (and across) Australian roads, and they are often hit by cars.
There are signs making people aware of kangaroo crossings, but what happens when people are no longer driving the car? Unfortunately for our hoppy friends, self-driving cars don't recognize kangaroos. Meaning, when these cars are cruising down the street, the technology driving them won't stop or yield to kangaroos until it's too late. Don't worry, though – this sounds scary, but scientists are already on top of it.
Why Can't Self-Driving Cars Recognize Them?
Self-driving cars come with a technology called "large animal detection systems," which basically helps cars detect animals that are near or on a road they're driving. So far, these systems can detect big animals like deer, elk, and caribou. But not kangaroos.
And that's because of kangaroos' signature hop. The kangaroo's unique method of movement baffles the computer systems inside driverless cars. According to Volvo Australia, the computers can't track the movement because kangaroos leave the ground – a reference point for the car. This makes it hard for the car to determine how far away the kangaroo really is.
"When it's in the air, it actually looks like it's further away," said Davidic Pickett, Volvo Australia's technical manager. "Then it lands and it looks closer."
Don't Worry, They're Working On Fixing This
Volvo Australia planned on releasing their self-driving cars by 2020, but this new development could put a damper on things. However, now that they know this defect is happening, they're actively creating technology to recognize the kangaroo's unique movement. Kangaroos aren't the only animal they didn't account for. According to The Guardian, swans were also posing a problem because of their smaller size.
Kangaroos Cause More Accidents In Australia Than Any Other Type Of Animal
This new, corrected technology is greatly needed in Australia, because kangaroos cause the most accidents in the country. Nine out of 10 road accidents involving animals are caused by kangaroos. In 2014 alone, 19,000 accidents were caused by the hopping creature, and, since then, the number has been on the rise.